Feeding the multitudes

3-27-2015 – Cooking for 60 men is not easy, but it is with great pleasure to serve these heroes.  These men that so many Ukrainians have just forgotten about.  It is beyond my understanding.  But the morning began with cooking onions, garlic, carrots, meat and rice for the men of block post #1.  This seems to be ‘our’ block post and the men are getting to know us.  I pray for all of the men in the war, it is just even harder when you personally know some of them.    Oleg calls and is ready to go, as there is usually only a ‘window’ of time that we can go up to the block post.  So we are on our way after a quick stop for bread. We have an arrangement with the local bread factory, and they give us the bread from the day before, which they would normally pitch, but really it is all quite fine.  We arrive, and all is quiet.  The men that are there at the station are happy to see us, and gladly take the food.  They are very appreciative, I will say that for sure.  The kids at the center have been working on blue and gold bracelets, and we give them out to the soldiers. They gladly took our bracelets, and helped each other put them on.  We didn’t stay long, as we needed to get down to ‘New York’, as men were waiting on us, as they needed blankets, some special nails, and flashlights.   We picked up Julia on our way, and off to Novgorodskoye or New York.  We now have a block post at the ‘cross roads’ to New York, and that is comforting, thinking that maybe they are trying to find that white Lada that was out here in Zabalka posing at DNR.  Who knows, but it does make me feel safer having more block posts, and more men here.  We have been told, and we can see, that more troops have arrived.  They are clearly here!   Julia and I comment how we feel safer with them here!  We get to the check point, and they see our flag on the dash board, and just wave us through.       We decided to meet Maxim, the block post 2nd in charge on a side road by the train station, as the market was too congested, and we could not go to the block post, as it is too far, and way too dangerous.  Maxim and another soldier were very nice, and greeted us warmly.  We gave them all the supplies they asked for, and then took an inventory of what they may need, as we will return tomorrow (Saturday) with more supplies.  Maxim proceeded to tell us how they basically have nothing to build a place to hide, sleep, anything… so everything is very appreciated.  They really need mattresses, but we have none to give, and they are no where to be found in Dzerzhinsk.  Feeling pretty helpless for that need.  Soldiers are purchasing nails with their own money, food, flashlights, it is all just crazy….how do you adequately protect your country like this???  Maxim actually returned to Ukraine from a good paying job in Poland to come and volunteer for the war.  He went to training, where he eventually left training because he said that most of the instructors were drinking all the time, and they didn’t learn much.  He came to the ‘front’ in just street clothing!  And it was not until yesterday that he even had camouflaged clothing.  Someone gave him a uniform, and he only had sport shoes, and not in the best condition.    I just wanted to take him home and ‘redress’ him…thinking that he is some ones son, brother, husband, something…but here as a volunteer to protect us without even proper shoes!    Maxim spoke some English, and he would make comments to me in English, asking about ‘where I was from’, and making comments about how nice Florida is.    We promised that we would return tomorrow, Saturday with the items that they requested.  We hugged and parted, he returning to the front, us to Dzerzhinsk to start the search for items.  

Returning the to center, we searched through the garage for items, and made the conclusion that we had nails, but not the plastic,  

3/28/15 – Saturday started early, with baking a banana and apple cake for the men.  They absolutely love this recipe, and find it so interesting. Valeryi called and said that the men needed to push the shower time to 11:30, thus, we needed to get moving the morning to purchase the plastic for ‘New York’ block post, pick up the sheets, purchase meat, prepare the lunch, then race to Novgorodskoye or New York at 1….but then the phone rings again, and Oleg says, we need to push it to 1:30.  Wow, talk about flexible.  Readjusting the schedule is a must… We tell all people who come to Ukraine, ‘Be Flexible’.  I was beginning to feel like a gymnast.    The morning was just crazy, started with going to the ‘home store’ to compare prices of the plastic for block post #74.  They are in need of shelter, and this will be used as several shelters.  They also needed nails, which thankfully we had in the garage, left over from building the center.  Two block posts received nails!  I had earlier picked up the sheets and towels for the men over at the ‘hospital’ compound, and needed to get those back.  They were very thankful, and what a blessing to see Alex and Sasha; alive and well.  Praise the Lord.  Alex said that Yuri was going to be arriving soon.  They invited us in for tea, but we unfortunately had to decline, as we had many places to go.  Made a quick call to Maxim to see if he needed anything else out in New York, and he mentioned they needed large white bags for sand bagging.  Ran to the big market and bought 32 from merchants.    Then we were off to Novgorodskoye (New York).  Arrived to the rail crossing, and there was 10 cars backed up.  We could see ‘our guys’ 4 cars ahead of us, so Valeryi went up and mentioned to them that we could go over to a side street and make the exchange of ‘good’s.  They were fine with that, and we took off down the road.  Stopped off and gave them the plastic, nails and bags.  Maxim was so sweet, he gave me a little prayer book that some one gave to him, I really didn’t want this, as it was from the orthodox church, but I graciously took it, and gave them all a hug, and encouraged ‘safety’, and off we went, the whole stop was 10 minutes, as we had many places to be today.   We then were to meet with Oleg’s daughter, and friend Lilia for tea.  We felt so rushed, it was really not fair to her.  We were in and out of her house within an hour, as we were supposed to pick up Oleg at 1, and then men at 1:30.  We started heading back to Dz., and there on the road along the way, we see Inna, from Start church, her husband, stranded in the road.  We pull off to help.  Little did I know that there were 4 VERY large people in the car with him.  We decide that we need to ‘tow’ the van, but don’t really know if my van can pull this weight. We started to go, very slowly, and we got through the check point, and veered to the left, to go up the hill to Dz.  We had to stop and pick up a man from their group who had started walking for help.  Unfortunately, we stopped exactly where a bomb had hit the road, and reduced the road to only 1 lane, where the tow rope decided to break!   With cars coming from both directions, I prayed for help, and within 5 minutes we were on our way.  Thank the Lord we made it to Dz., as my car ‘gas’ light had come on, and I knew we needed to get gas ourselves.   I pulled over at the bus stop and then the 4 very large people piled into my car and we took them up to the grocery ‘Christina’; then we had to stop and get gas, and then we met Oleg.  He was upset, but we explained, the situation, and we could not just leave these people on the road.   We raced to the block post where the men were walking down the road with all their dirty laundry.  Six of them.  They all piled in the van, thank God, truly that I bought a van!  There was an eerie quiet all the back, I don’t know if it is because they are leaving their friends, the front, or what, but this is how it usually is, they are very quiet around us.  Sometimes I think that maybe seeing volunteers reminds them that there is the ‘real world’ out there, and then they think about their loved ones, etc., whereas just staying in the war keeps their minds off what they have left behind.   I don’t know, all is speculative…We get back to the center, and they head up for showers, 2 stay down stairs waiting their turn.  

At this point I’m frantic to get food prepared, as I have nothing prepared at all.  Oleg asks if he can help, so I put him to work on carrot salad.  I make the cutlets, and rice, we have jarred tomatoes, and pickles, bread, and then for dessert I made the apple/banana cake in the morning.   As the men completed their showers they wandered down stairs and would talk alittle, but not much.  I gave them each a bracelet, and they appreciated that; and Andre gave me one of his battalion patches!  Such an honor !!!   The men seemed to really enjoy their food, and tea, but after we finished, and chatted briefly, they were ready to head back to the front.  After a couple of photos, and a stop at the market, we were on our way back.  They called ahead to get a report on the situation and where I should ‘drop’ them; they told me to stop by the ‘downed’ tree, as there had been sniper fire.  I wanted to get them closer, but they insisted that I stop and said, ‘we don’t want anything to happen to you Teresa.”   They all piled out of the van, and we all hugged and they thanked us, and kissed me on the cheeks.  The last look at them walking together down the road back to what may or may not be their death, I whispered a prayer over their lives.   It was a blessing to serve them, and hopefully minister to some of the broken lives this war has caused.  Driving back to the center, Valeryi wanted to stop at the Route 20 and hang with some friends, though I encouraged him to just return to the center, as it was very cold and windy, but he insisted he needed time to ‘hang out’, so I dropped him, and I returned home, one of the few cars on the road, but enjoying the quiet. Getting the gate open, car through the gate, close the gate, open the garage, car in the garage, close and lock garage, then off to clean up. l what a mess, as usually I clean as I go, but no time for that today…, but as I’m cleaning it is a time of reflection, and gratitude to our Lord for providing this place; NEVER did I think that we would be in a war, and I would be helping UA military, I only ever wanted to serve and help orphans. God had other plans…but we move forward, serving where we are placed…for the sake of one.

2/29/2015 Sunday 5:45 a.m.

You never want to be woke up at 5:45 a.m, by the police…just never a good start on the day!  And so it was, the local police were at the gates of the center asking for Valeryi’s documents.  They wanted me to get in their car and go to the police station.  I was still wearing my sweat pants, I asked to run home and change.   Quickly, I ran home, and threw on some clothes, combed my hair and put some light make-up on.  Grabbed all my documents, and out the door.  With a million things going through my head, we arrive to the police station; not knowing if Valeryi was dead or alive, beaten, just didn’t know.   The officers began to tell me the events of Saturday night, and I can’t believe my ears.  A young man that is so vehemently against drinking; was completely intoxicated beyond, standing,  speaking, and is basically passed out in a chair in the corner of a room.  One police man asked me if he was an American…lived in the U.S., didn’t speak Russian…when I answered ‘no’, they all basically chuckled, and then told me that he stated several times that he was an American, and didn’t speak Russian, and spoke to them in English.  Eventually he spoke in Russian, and was combative to the policemen and subsequently threatened to kill one officer and his family.    It was all I could do was stand there in disbelief, and had they not had an audio of the arrest, it would have been hard for me to believe.    The officer that he threatened was very upset, and told us that he would have a fine of at least 450 and more for the damages at some bar, where they picked him up.  He had thrown his phone down, breaking it, though they were only trying to get a number to call and to have someone pick him up, but instead of just handing the phone over, he threw it down, and his coat.  The story was just something out of ‘left field’.  Valeryi started his Saturday evening, by me encouraging him to ‘stay home’.    But Valeryi said that he was going out to the Route 20 (the local gas station/pizza place).   He promised to let me know when he arrived home.  I had taken some cold medicine and went to bed at 9:15 but didn’t hear any text.  But seems he stayed at the Route 20 till 10, and then left in a taxi, where he says (Sunday afternoon), that he headed home, but then decided to ‘drive around’, ending up at Christina (the grocery/coffee place) to treat the driver to some coffee, but then the driver got a call to go to ‘Broadway’ a local bar, so Valeryi decided to go there, since the taxi was going there anyway.   At Broadway, Valeryi went in and that is the last he remembers.  Broadway personnel says he was drinking, and tried to fight 2 of the waiters when asked to leave.  He did not want to leave, and ended up yelling and then over turning a table and some chairs.  They eventually phoned the police, who arrived, and had the encounter with him.  They were able to put the phone back together and found Oleg’s daughter, Lily’s number on the phone, and phone her at 5:30 a.m. to find someone who could come and get him.   She ultimately called her father, who went to the station, and then they called me at 6:15 to come and pick him up.  Of course, it wasn’t just to pick him up.  He was to pay this fine, and be charged, and then leave Dz., as the policeman instructed him to leave Dzerzhinsk and the oblast.  Oleg being friends with the new Chief of Police he asked to speak to him, and they called him in on Sunday morning…the Chief arrived around 8:30, and we were summoned upstairs, but trying to get V up there was a tasks, he was grabbing door handles and wouldn’t let go; then tried to leave the front door, but 2 policemen stood firm, then all of a sudden, he turned, and bolted upstairs, with us following.  We were taken to the chief office, and we went to the front and sat next to him, whereas Valeryi sat in the back of the room, disrespectful to the chief.  The chief was not unkind in any way, and thanked us for our service to the army.  Oleg was very respectful and worked on trying to get Valeryi out of this trouble.  The chief was clear and said, that he would remove the charges, but that Valeryi needed to leave Dzerzhinsk and Donetsk oblast immediately.  He said, ‘we don’t want him here…we don’t need people like him here, we have enough problems….’   We agreed to do this, and quietly left.  The police man that was threatened, he told us again, that Valeryi needed to leave.   Valeryi was in no position to leave, or go anywhere, so Oleg took him to his place to sleep, since it was 9:30, and people would be arriving for church. 

Tough morning, exhausting, and shocking, so I started trying to figure out the future, since Valeryi was leaving.  Whether today or tomorrow, he had to leave.  I had 17 wounded soldiers to feed in the afternoon, and needed to get started on that, but just exhausted, physically and mentally, as I’m verging a cold as it is, so I’m taking cold medicine which tends to slow me down, and then all the stress of the morning, knowing Valeryi must leave, and thinking of ‘who’ will come to help me. Lord give me some wisdom on this, you know the need, now, please provide.

2:00 comes around, and I must start cooking.  Julia is not able to join me, so Lena (her friend) will come and help me.    It is great to see the men, and they welcome us with food.  We were able to feed everyone,  and I dropped off Lena, and then went to Oleg’s to pick up Valeryi.  He was awake, but not really alert, and argued about ‘what happened’.  His ‘story’ just doesn’t add up at all.   Doesn’t make sense, and changes frequently.   First, he was alone, then he was with 2 guys, then he was alone…Oleg and I both told him that he had to leave Dz., that the police men told us this.  He didn’t believe, but we didn’t want to take him back to the police station, in fear that they would be mad at us for not getting him out of town, like they instructed.   Oleg also mentioned that when he does leave, to make sure to leave all the souvenir’s at the center, because it is illegal to have ‘live’ ammo, and he would be crossing the block post on the way to Konstantinovka.   I fell into bed Sunday night…literally numb from the days events, I can write no more…

3/30/15Monday morning, I must prepare food for the soldiers that are coming from the blockpost.  Oleg calls and changes the number from 4 to 6.  I race to the center and see that I need to go to the store for some food, and off I go, leaving Valeryi a note that he was leaving at 12:30 for the bus.  My plan was to drop him at the bus station, and allow him to be ’23!’ and take the bus himself to the train station.   V was under the impression that I would take him, and I said, ‘no’.  he was shocked.  Though I can’t figure out ‘why’.  I didn’t make the mess, he did, so he pays to leave.  I dropped him off, and went to pick up Oleg to drive to the block post to pick up 7 men!!    Arriving home, and completing the cooking, men had cutlets, salad, rice, bread and coffee cake.  During the showering, I noticed water coming down from the upstairs, down the kitchen window.  I asked Oleg to check on it, and he rain upstairs, then came back for the mop.  Water was pouring out the ceiling, and moving further and further over the ceiling.  What a mess, and ‘where’ was all that water coming from… like a broken pipe.   The men finally came down, and I fed them and ran upstairs to check and there I found the PVC tube on the last shower was completely apart, not connected at all, so water was going everywhere.  Just overwhelming, Oleg said that he would repair, but the damage to the ceiling was evident. 

Later in the day, Valeryi called, and seems he had some problems at the check point that sure enough  he tried to pass through the border with live ammo and was caught.  He needed money for a lawyer, and wanted me to go to Konstantinovka to talk to the police chief.  I told him that I wasn’t not coming to Konstantinovka. today or any day alone, and that I wasn’t coming anytime soon.    Valeryi got upset with me, and raised his voice, at which I put him in his place, whereas he turned and threatened to go to the press about me, the problem was, is that he had nothing to ‘go to the press’ with.; except good stuff.!  When you are there doing ‘good stuff’, kinda hard to ‘go to the press’…  I finally told him that he had burned the bridge and that the conversation was over, God bless him, and not to call again.      Mentally exhausted.  that I think I’m just sleep walking…Valeryi, tried to engage me by calling over and over, and then at 11:10 p.m. asks if his friend, Max in Kirovo Rog can all me.   Max starts the call by asking me about ‘firing Valeryi where I must stop him in his tracks, and say, ‘I didn’t fire Valeryi.  This continues to be a frustration due to Valeryi telling people this.  Max shares with me that Aloyna is pregnant with V. baby and that is why she is in the hospital.  I about fell over!  He totally ‘played’ us, and played the ministry.  As a Christian charity, he probably didn’t think I would hire him if he told the truth about the baby, and he was correct, I would not have hired him.   Max shares more and more with me about Valeryi’s personality and behavior traits; but considering what Valeryi has told me about Max, I’m not sure what to believe anymore.  Max assured me, that Aloyna was in the hospital due to have a baby, not due to her back, as Valeryi insisted. 

Well, things didn’t get any better for a few days, and Valeryi thought it was best to try and threaten me into helping me, saying that I was somehow responsible for him and getting him back to Kyiv since I took him from Kyiv.  Granted, under regular circumstances, that may be true but at this point it is his responsibility to get himself back ‘home’ since he messed UP, BIG.   I tried to explain all this, but he just started yelling that he was going to the ‘press’ and T.V. show, etc and try to say something bad about me and the charity.   Oleg made a call to him and explained that he had no right to threaten me, and told him to STOP, or that he would take action at his university to stop him.  As of Sunday, I haven’t heard from Valeryi again!  Thank goodness. 

It is back to work, and can’t get caught up in the past.  Moving on, I put out a note on social media that I need a translator.  Andrew Kelley, fellow worker in the Lord mentions that he may know someone in Kherson.  Sergey and I make contact and he says that he wants to pray on it and get back with me in the morning.  I pray that God sends someone, someone that wants to do this work, and work with the community and the kids.   I wonder if my discernment skills are lacking, in that I trusted Valeryi, granted, I rested a lot of my discernment on Stephanie, which at this point, turned out to be a real problem.   We have uncovered layers of issues and I’m glad he is gone.    I’m thoroughly exhausted, and don’t know how I will do this alone, but God will provide, and see me through.   

Water, water, everywhere…..Monday comes, and Oleg is to bring 4 soldiers.  He arrives, and the guys all go upstairs, I start cooking.  While cutting potatoes, I see water coming down the kitchen window, then more and more, and the ceiling.  I run and get Oleg, he sees the problem, and runs upstairs.  Says that the bathroom is flooding, and gets a mop, which is futile.  Too much water, but at least the men complete their showers.  Cooking is complete, and they come down to eat, while I go up to clean up the massive water issue. Checking all the pipes, I see that we have a completely unscrewed plumbing pipe in the ladies shower space.  Oleg and I assess the issue and he thinks it is a broken pipe, but I show him that it is just disconnected.   He says that he will return in the afternoon to fix, and he takes the men back to the block post.  I feel really bad, as I didn’t get to visit with the men as much as usual due to the water issues.    I get everything cleaned up, and start on laundry.   First load out, it is 3 o’clock, and I run it upstairs to the girls side, and find ‘water, water, water’….seems the water seeped under the wall and through to the room, and there was water everywhere.   I put on my ‘plumber hat’, grabbed towels, and started to dry the best I could, and at the very least move water to get it to dry faster.  Used the water to wash the floors upstairs, so at the very least, spread it out to dry… Now we must find the leak, tomorrow.

4/3/2015 – Friday, it was off to Konstantivka to shop for food for food boxes.  I decided it best to take Oleg along with me, and Larissa decided to go along too.   Our plan was to  pick up 13 bags of vegetables, potatoes, carrots, onions, 30 kilos of sugar, 60 kilos of pasta, 30 cans of milk, 80 cans of fish, 50 bags of monka, 45 litres of oil, 30 kilos of flour, 45 boxes of tea.  What I thought would be a 2 hour trip, ended up being closer to 6, but one reason was we got a very late start.  Plans were to leave at 9:30, and I was ready to go, when I arrived to get Oleg his phone rings and he then says, ‘can someone go to the center and bath and sleep all day while we are gone?’.  I have no idea what he is talking about but that someone needed a place to stay, and it was a soldier.  I get Sergey on the phone, and it seems that this man, Victor Peterovich, is a commander and working ‘very undercover’ for UA and he has been behind enemy territory poising as a Russian soldier gathering information…and he is totally stressed out and needed to get out of Ghorlovika and needed a secret place to stay, and rest.   He had been running and hiding for 2 days, and was exhausted.  We zoom back to the center, and there is an all ‘black’ car, with heavily tinted windows, and black license plates, and out of the car comes a man, and Oleg whisks him into the center, and the car zooms away.  I was barely out of the van, and they were in the center, with Victor in the restroom.   I quickly threw some food in a pan and turned on the kettle.  He insisted on no food, but I knew he was tired and hungry.  I put the food in front of him and the tea…he just kept saying how exhausted he was, and his eyes clearly showed it, as they were totally bloodshot.  He was thin as a rail, and talked about how he was running and hiding in the bushes to get back to UA side.  He still had his Russian beret’ complete with hammer and sickle emblem.  I was a little shaky about allowing him to stay at the center, but really there isn’t much there for him to take, and no money at all.  Maybe the laptop, but that is all.   While he talked with Oleg, I ran upstairs to prepare his bed with sheets and blankets, and a towel for bathing.   He dragged himself upstairs, profusely ‘thanking me for my kindness’ and asked that ‘no know that he is there. ‘   Oleg and I left, and Oleg locked him inside the building.   We were off to pick up Larissa and finally off to Konstatinivka.

Arriving, we were able to get potatoes for only 3.20 per kilo, and onions and carrots for 4.gh a kilo.  Amazing, as prices are much higher in Dz.  We picked up sugar, canned milk, canned fish, monka, flour, pasta, tea and oil, saving us hundreds, if not thousands of ghrivnas.    Standing in line after line, people everywhere trying to save, just like us…we arrived back to the center at almost 4:00.    Oleg unloaded the van, and then went to get Misha, a soldier that was returning home to Ternipol for 10 days to see his ill son, and his brother who was having open heart surgery.  He was stressed about all this, but it was good for the kids to see the real soldiers, with real life issues, that they are real people with families, and kids, etc.  Our kids needed to see this, needed to talk to someone from UA side, as all they hear is russian propaganda crap.  Misha arrived around 5:30, and wanted to clean up.  We invited him to the Bible study, and he came down for a while, but he was very tired, and wanted to rest.  After the study, he joined us for tea and I prepared some food for him, and he then went to bed.  Tomorrow he will go with us to Konstantinivka and we will pick up Sergey the new translator.  Thank goodness, he arrives tomorrow. 

April 4, 2015 – Saturday – wake to snowing and ice storm – WOW, it is APRIL, and we have snow– we head out to Konstatinivka to pick up Sergey, and drop off Misha.  Larissa, Angel and Larissa ‘s husband, Sergey join, Oleg and I for the trip.  Seems that they want to purchase something in Konstatinivka.  We get through the check point because we are carrying a soldier, and on to Konstatinivka.  By the time we arrive, the snow has turned to rain.  We find Sergey and get his bag loaded, say our good-byes to Misha and Larissa and Sergie go to the market.  We finish what we need to do in less then 10 minutes, but then Larissa and group are no where to be found.  We look and look, but after 45 minutes, we go to the van, as it is getting cold.  Sergie and Angel find us, and we take Angel as it is getting cold, and Sergie goes back out for another 30 minutes to look for Larissa.  Finally he returns with her, and we head back to the center, losing over 1.5 looking for Larissa.  Church members are at the center waiting to get started bagging food for the IDP’s, not that they need my help on that, but they waited.  All the vegetables get packed, and then I start cooking for men at the hospital.  Sergie, Aloyna and I leave for the hospital around 2, very late for them, and for us, as the kids have come to the center looking for it to be open for them.  We explain that we must go and feed the soldiers, and though they understand, they are upset that this infringes on ‘their time’ at ‘their center’. I have yet to make it clear to the kids that the ‘center’ doesn’t personally belong to me or them, but to the charity, and they are guests. We leave and invite them back for later in the afternoon.

Once at the hospital, it is good to see the men, but seems not all are in the best spirits.  On the previous week,  a drunk UA soldier started a verbal encounter with a drunk man, and ended up shooting him, wounding him.  The towns people of Artuma were and are very angry with the UA army.  Granted, one bad apple doesn’t make the whole bunch bad…but try telling that to a group of angry, hungry people!  They see the UA army as ‘the enemy’ instead of the protector, though they are, just one bad guy~~  So we ran into a couple of soldiers that were with civilians, and they were pretty stressed about it, and rightfully so.  Here we are feeding the soldiers, and we don’t have enough food for everyone, but they have the soldiers in with civilians instead of having them all together, which is easier for us, and them.   No logic at all, but adds to their stress level.    We got through the feeding, and had some good conversation with Sasha and a couple of other soldiers.  They are very thankful for the help.     We race back to the center, where kids are waiting…they get to meet Sergie for the first time…


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